Posted by: janecronin | September 18, 2011

Spanish pronunciation – place names

This is a more difficult subject than it looks.   We should of course learn how to pronounce Spanish place names properly – I mean Toriaveka and Fwejiroller just won’t do at all, and neither will the miriad of local horrors such as Almoradí pronounced AlmorARdy; San Miguel pronounced San MigWELL; Quesada pronounced Coosarder and my personal favourite, Dos Mares pronounced like “two horses”. 

However, sometimes there are established English pronunciations for cities – Barcelona, Seville, Corunna and Saragossa being among them.  The problem is that you can sound like a real poser in English if you say “I’m going to Barcelona next week” -pronouncing Barcelona with your best Spanish accent.

That comment is not meant to be an excuse for bad pronunciation, but I think it all boils down to making yourself understood to whoever you’re talking to.




  1. Yes, an interesting one. Even “innocuous” Benidorm is pronounced VERY differently in Spanish than English. The “funniest” one is Villamartin on the Costa Blanca. As this is now an expat enclave, you even hear Spanish locals talk about Vill-err-mahr- tin which is strangely the same place as the Spanish Vee-ya-mar-tee(n)!

    There is a big S.American population on the Costa del Sol who call Mar-bey-a Mar-betch-a. The city has as many pronounciations as silicon implants!

  2. Dual language brings its own problems – even Valencia is pronounced differently in Castellano and Valenciano. Using public transport helps because the place names are usually stated over the PA – but in Valenciano! I once asked, on one of my early morning bike rides, the way to Sagunt (Valenciano) and seeing the puzzled look realised I needed to say Sagunto (Castellano). Even the locals are confused. We overheard a local Spanish couple behind us on the bus asking where Serradora was. It’s the Valenciano version of Serreria but appears nowhere on any maps and we have never heard anyone, other than the EMT bus announcement, call it anything other than Serreria. Just try working out Albuixech or Massalfassar. Best to listen to the announcements on the Cercanias train! (It’s Al bi sheck, emphasis on the last syllable, and Massal fass ar, emphasis on the penultimate)

  3. You’re right Steve, Villa Martin will end up as Viller Mahtin (can’t write it!) just through sheer force of numbers!

    As for Valenciano – I’m afraid I give it a very wide berth. It is one of the reasons I moved over the border into Murcia with my two children. There might be a strong accent here, but at least it isn’t another language!

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